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yakers 12-10-2007 11:52 AM

Bond Losses
 
It looks like literally billions of dollars in bond losses are being written off by major banks. USB just wrote down 'another' $10B. I can't even keep track of the major bank and Freddie/Fannie announcements. Isnít it worse when bonds are written down than stocks going down? Stocks go up & down but bonds are a Ďrealí loss of money. When the dot com blew up that was more a loss of paper money (unless you were the unlucky recent purchaser) but isn't loss on bonds the loss of 'real' monjey and therefore more significant?
Has the market had to deal with bond losses like this before?

brewer12345 12-10-2007 12:09 PM

Are the losses real? Maybe. One of the things that gets lost in the reporting of these things is that there is accounting valuation and there is the ultimate cash flow you will receive from the bonds. In the case of a bank that has secure funding and adequate capital, what you really care about are the timing and size of the ultimate cash flows that a bond spits out. Now in the meantime the market might greatly reduce the value it places on that bond, so you might have to write it down. But if the cash flows from the bond haven't really changed, then the write-down is just so much accounting marsh gas. My guess is that some of the write downs are "optics" (with little or no cash flow impact), and some are reflective of a real reduction in the amount of cash flows a given bond will throw off.

barbarus 12-10-2007 07:22 PM

Brew, in your opinion, how serious is the threat to the American economy posed by the collapsing housing bubble. I tend to take a jaundiced view of most things, but I also am well aware that too much pessimism can be nearly as great a trap as moronic optimism. I don't foresee the end of the world, but there looks to be a real possibility of very bad times for a while.

Has your outlook darkened at all?

brewer12345 12-10-2007 08:01 PM

All the following is just my opinion, so consult your psychotherapist/doctor/parent/advisor before taking it too much to heart.

There has unquestionably been a significant shock to the economy from the seizing up of the credit/mortgage market. We are late in a US economic expansionary cycle anyway, plus you have a new administration on the horizon in another year, so it was inevitable that the economy would slow eventually. So for sure we will be seeing US economic growth slow in the next few quarters.

But I think that many have overlooked the offsetting positives, specifically Fed actions and export growth. The Fed has made it abundantly clear that they will take whatever actions necessary to cushion the blow and get economy back on its feet. That will include more rate cuts as well as more creative efforts to restore liquidity to the credit markets. Do not underestimate the ability of Uncle Ben & Co. to offset a capital markets shock. We also need to remember that any industry that exports and good or service is suddenly vastly more competitive than it was 6 months ago due to the USD slide. I will use an example I am intimately familiar with: coal exports are looking to be up roughly 20% this year, and all I see is future upside to exports. Multiply that by a gazillion different industries and you have a powerful economic stimulus.

I also look around and I see the world economy still humming. The UK and (to a lesser extent) the EU got hit by the credit crunch, albeit not as badly as the US. Russia, China, Brazil, India, Vietnam, South Africa, etc. remain quite robust. In fact, China appears to be trying increasingly desparate measures to restrain its growth as inflation starts to ignite over there. India is likely not far behind, and I don't really know how Brazil has managed not to overheat yet. These guys have the exact opposite problem that we do, so the different cycles should offset each other.

The US capital markets are bordering on mass hystery, especially in the arena of financials, mortgage securities and credit risk. Investors (and I use that term loosely)suddenly looked at what they owned for the first time, realized they had no clue how it worked, and started throwing stuff out the window at any price. The hysterical posts we have seen about banks, mortgage bailouts and what if SIPC didn't exist are illustrative. These securities are now priced at such low levels it would be almost impossible not to make money buying them. CMBS Aaa tranches are now priced as if commercial real estate will have worse losses than in the Depression. Does that fit teh available facts? I think not.

So while this is not the greatest economic time, it ain't teh worst by a long shot and current securities pricing is very, very attractive. I think financials, junk/credit risky bonds, mortgage-backed stuff and even munis are very attractively priced for the risk they represent. If the US economy goes into recesssion, it will be brief and shallow, accompanied by frenetic Fed activity. RE will not likely stabilize until 2009 or so, but I think that we will not see a catastrophic crash.

clifp 12-10-2007 08:50 PM

Ditto
what he said
I agree;D

Achiever51 12-10-2007 09:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by brewer12345 (Post 586892)
All the following is just my opinion, so consult your psychotherapist/doctor/parent/advisor before taking it too much to heart.

There has unquestionably been a significant shock to the economy from the seizing up of the credit/mortgage market. We are late in a US economic expansionary cycle anyway, plus you have a new administration on the horizon in another year, so it was inevitable that the economy would slow eventually. So for sure we will be seeing US economic growth slow in the next few quarters.

But I think that many have overlooked the offsetting positives, specifically Fed actions and export growth. The Fed has made it abundantly clear that they will take whatever actions necessary to cushion the blow and get economy back on its feet. That will include more rate cuts as well as more creative efforts to restore liquidity to the credit markets. Do not underestimate the ability of Uncle Ben & Co. to offset a capital markets shock. We also need to remember that any industry that exports and good or service is suddenly vastly more competitive than it was 6 months ago due to the USD slide. I will use an example I am intimately familiar with: coal exports are looking to be up roughly 20% this year, and all I see is future upside to exports. Multiply that by a gazillion different industries and you have a powerful economic stimulus.

I also look around and I see the world economy still humming. The UK and (to a lesser extent) the EU got hit by the credit crunch, albeit not as badly as the US. Russia, China, Brazil, India, Vietnam, South Africa, etc. remain quite robust. In fact, China appears to be trying increasingly desparate measures to restrain its growth as inflation starts to ignite over there. India is likely not far behind, and I don't really know how Brazil has managed not to overheat yet. These guys have the exact opposite problem that we do, so the different cycles should offset each other.

The US capital markets are bordering on mass hystery, especially in the arena of financials, mortgage securities and credit risk. Investors (and I use that term loosely)suddenly looked at what they owned for the first time, realized they had no clue how it worked, and started throwing stuff out the window at any price. The hysterical posts we have seen about banks, mortgage bailouts and what if SIPC didn't exist are illustrative. These securities are now priced at such low levels it would be almost impossible not to make money buying them. CMBS Aaa tranches are now priced as if commercial real estate will have worse losses than in the Depression. Does that fit teh available facts? I think not.

So while this is not the greatest economic time, it ain't teh worst by a long shot and current securities pricing is very, very attractive. I think financials, junk/credit risky bonds, mortgage-backed stuff and even munis are very attractively priced for the risk they represent. If the US economy goes into recesssion, it will be brief and shallow, accompanied by frenetic Fed activity. RE will not likely stabilize until 2009 or so, but I think that we will not see a catastrophic crash.

Just wanted to say "thank you" for your explanation. I enjoy reading your posts and always find food for thought. Well done!


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